Research ArticleECOLOGY

Herbivores at the highest risk of extinction among mammals, birds, and reptiles

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Science Advances  05 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 32, eabb8458
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb8458


As a result of their extensive home ranges and slow population growth rates, predators have often been perceived to suffer higher risks of extinction than other trophic groups. Our study challenges this extinction-risk paradigm by quantitatively comparing patterns of extinction risk across different trophic groups of mammals, birds, and reptiles. We found that trophic level and body size were significant factors that influenced extinction risk in all taxa. At multiple spatial and temporal scales, herbivores, especially herbivorous reptiles and large-bodied herbivores, consistently have the highest proportions of threatened species. This observed elevated extinction risk for herbivores is ecologically consequential, given the important roles that herbivores are known to play in controlling ecosystem function.

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